Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Best Priestly Review Of The New Translation

All the regalia a Cardinal is entitled to wear.  No question the new translation works well with all this.

I was made aware of this review from Bill Lyndsy's blog Bilrimage.  There are times humor, even somewhat off the wall humor, makes the point better than even 80 word sentences with multitudes of commas, and four semi colons, plus full colons, no sentence breaks, and of course, no paragraphs.  The review was posted as a comment to this dotcommonweal article.
  1. I don’t care what any of you people think, I simply love, love, love the new translation! I feel so important, saying all those big words, while all you little ontological wormies crouch on your knees adoring me! Yes, as a matter of a fact, Jesus was consubanshle with the Father and I’m consubanshle with Jesus, and it’s about time you people started treating me that way. This mass is a wonderful tool for catechizing you on the doctrine of my holy priesthood.
    And I love, love, love, love how we finally wrote all those dirty, stinky, female people out of the script. (As if any priest would ever bother coming down from Heaven for the sake of their salvation!) What liturgy could be more like the Beatific Vision than just wonderful, precious me and my fabulous, divine brethren all alone with half-naked Jesus up on the cross? (I am so ready to boot those revolting little altar-females out of my sanctuary, which I plan to do as soon as I’ve bought myself a golden chaliss with lots of elegant little swirly-curlies engraved on it, just like Pope Benny has. And there won’t be any laypeople putting their mouths on my precious chaliss, you can bet on that, nor any disgusting old tuna holding it down there at the foot of the altar for people to drink from.)
    Oh, how beautifully I prayed the new mass, very slowly and importantly with plenty of intonation, just like Maria Callas singing “Pace, mio Dio”, and how elegantly I waved my sacred, venerable hands around all the while, just like Gandalf at the bridge in Moria! And I sounded so marvelously imposing and poetic, just like a Harry Potter book. Who cares what all those funny words mean anyway? I can’t understand one word of that Shakespeare stuff, but I go anyway because I simply adore the costumes and swordplay. Nobody comes to mass to hear some ridiculous Word, (duh!), they come to see me in my glamorous costumes. I just hope my butt didn’t look fat as I precessed up to the altar in my new cappa magna.
    Next on the agenda: I do think the non-ordained should kneel throughout the mass. Like who do you all think you are, standing in my holy presence? Did you not hear the part about how consubanshle I am with God? I have already written to Princess Georgie, who says the Queen agrees completely and will put a motu out as soon as possible, but it seems poor old Queenie spends most of the time in the Holy Shitter these days, trying to motu his proprio old bowels.

Censoring The Internet Is Coming Up For A Congressional Vote

This is just me engaging in a public service announcement.  I just received the following email from moveon.org and thought I'd pass it on.  The Big Brother wants to censor the Internet. How shocking, but I imagine it's tough to get all that Double Speak through if you can't shut up all the big and little bloggers who just don't buy the Double Speak.  I can just imagine the USCCB going after all us little fish who use the term Catholic in our blog sites and who don't happen to buy their double speak either.

Dear MoveOn member,

As soon as this week, Congress will start debating whether to give the government the power to turn off parts of the Internet. If that sounds like a terrible recipe for abuse of power, that's because it is.
If enacted, a new law would make it so a simple allegation of copyright infringement—with no review process—could lead to the shutdown of sites from YouTube to Wikipedia to MoveOn.org.1 Any website, foreign or U.S.-based, could be wiped out on suspicion and made unavailable to everyone in the world.
For example, if you (or Justin Bieber) wanted to post a video to YouTube of yourself singing a Beatles song, a record company could force the Department of Justice to shut down YouTube. Really.2
But as you may have guessed, Congress didn't come up with this tragically terrible idea on their own. Lobbyists representing Comcast, Pfizer, record and movie companies, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce3 have been pushing Democrats and Republicans to pass bills to allow this new kind of Internet censorship. And they're close to getting their way.
But a small number of Democrats are standing strong and saying "No" to these powerful special interest groups. They need our help.
Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon is one of our champions. He has promised to start a historic filibuster of the Internet Censorship Act where he'll read the names of every person that signs a petition against Internet censorship.4 It's the perfect opportunity for 5 million Internet-connected progressives to visibly add their voice to a Senate debate. The more of us that sign, the stronger this effort to block this terrible law will be.
We know that the Internet's openness, freedom, and lack of censorship are what make it a bastion of infinite possibility, continued innovation, and job creation. Innovative companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Mozilla, and Yahoo have spoken out against this law, saying: 
We should not jeopardize a foundational structure that has worked for content owners and Internet companies alike and provides certainty to innovators with new ideas for how people create, find, discuss, and share information lawfully online.5
Internet venture capitalists say that the legislation is "ripe for abuse,"6 and leading law professors reject it because it will "allow the government to block Internet access to websites."7
We condemn censorship overseas when it happens in China or Iran. But today, we need to stand up for freedom of speech on the Internet here at home.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Some Synchronicity

One of the ways I can generally tell if the 'spirit is moving' or to put it in a more secular language, if a new consensus understanding is developing, is through synchronicity. Synchronicity is defined as the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.  The following article by Australian Catholic Priest Peter Kennedy was posted on the website for St Mary's in Exile in Brisbane.  Followers of this blog may remember St Mary's in Exile as the Australian parish that was told to shape up or ship out, and decided to ship out.  Kennedy's post went up the same day I wrote this:

"Catholicism is dieing as an influence for change because our leadership is in its heart, terrified of change.  This is especially true if that change threatens their position in the Church.  Better for them that those of us that have real problems with their fear and utter lack of integrity leave the fold.  It's about as forceful a way as possible to tell us all that their Church is not about us.  It's about them.

Peter Kennedy is saying the same thing, only slightly differently and comes to the same conclusion.  Catholicism can not be a positive influence in today's culture operating the way it does.


Melbourne Town Hall -  November 15, 2011

In 2009 the ABC Australian Story produced a feature film entitled “Holier Than Thou” which documented our forced removal from St Mary’s Church in South Brisbane into Exile.

At the end of the filming of our story at Natural Bridge in Qld I went down with the production team for a coffee at the roadside café on the road between Nerang in Qld and Murwillumbah in NSW. As we sat down on the veranda a classic Aussie bloke dressed in stubbies and thongs shot a glance in my direction and pointed me out to his wife. Shortly after they got up to leave and he put his hands on his hips, looked down to me and said “Stick it up ‘em mate”. A little surprised, I half stood up and said “what’s your name mate” and he said “it doesn’t matter what my name is mate, just stick it up ‘em”.

Only later did I realise how pivotal that encounter was for me – a light bulb moment, a road to Damascus moment, except it was on the road to Murwillumbah.

The insight that arose was that the ordinary man and woman, the bulk of the church’s membership, the battlers, the mums and dads, who built the churches, hospitals, schools -  who were loyal all their lives to the church to its bishops, priests religions and its rules and regulations, its doctrines and its dogmas -  frankly -  had had enough -  they were voiceless in a church ruled by an elite, clerical caste who demanded and expected that the “laity” that derogative term, should just pray, pay and obey. They have had it up to here and they’ve left in their hundreds of thousands, never to come back -“stick it up ‘em mate”!

My argument is simple: – that the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church that arrogantly refuses to allow its membership, its most loyal supporters, a voice in its governance cannot be a force for good in today’s world where increasingly democracy and human rights is the primal cry of people who know the pain and suffering and disempowerment of dictatorships – especially women.

The Roman Catholic Church is such a totalitarian regime e.g. to become a bishop, male of course, a priest has to promise obedience of mind and will, to one man  the bishop of Rome, the Pope, in whom all authority resides.

To argue that Jesus established the church in this way and that the church cannot be more democratic, involving the people in its governance, is based on a fiction, a lie – known as apostolic succession,
Stay with me… the bishops claim to be the successors of the twelve apostles with the bishop of Rome claiming to be the successor of the apostle Peter, who was no.1 in Team Jesus. They argue they have that same authority to rule over the church today. Please note it is an authority of power – it ought to be an authority of love.

The Pope as No.1, claims to be – wait for it – the Vicar of Christ- well, I don’t know about you, but from my reading of the gospels I think Jesus would be far more at home with the Vicar of Dibley!

The facts are very different. In the first 3 centuries of  Christianity in the various communities of faith that dotted the Mediterranean there was no one form of liturgy, no one form of governance, no one theology. Instead you had communities of equals where both women and men exercised the various gifts given to them by the Spirit.  e.g. The gift of leadership, the gift of healing, the gift of prophecy, the gift of preaching etc. (Those very same gifts that have been virtually lost to the Church and synchronistically with the rise of the Constinian Church.)
In the 4th Century of the C..E the Pagan Emperor Constantine used the fledging literalist community in Rome to unify his empire. In order to bolster their claims to authority, the church leaders invented the fiction of Apostolic Succession which is still the basis of governance in the Roman Catholic Church today.

As Harvey Cox, Emeritus Professor at Harvard writes in his book “The Future of Faith” – “as the empire became notionally Christian, the church that had been from its beginning fiercely anti – imperial became its fawning imitators blurring the essence of Christianity almost beyond recognition. (And muting it's pure essense and true power, which is in love, not dominance.)

The paradox is that when the Roman Empire collapsed, up bobbed a pseudo-religious empire – the Roman Catholic Church. As the philosopher Thomas Hobbes in the 17th Century wrote – “the Church, the papacy became nothing other than the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting on the grave thereof.
Let me now speak from my own experience and that of our community, now in exile in our struggle with such absolute, ruthless and callous authority.

On that fateful day when I saw the Archbishop in 2008 as I was leaving his office, I turned towards him and with some compassion said “You know John, you are going to cop a fair bit of flak from our community”.
He paused and said “This is the Roman Catholic Church. You put me in a corner and I’ll come out fighting”.
People began writing to him respectfully and as intelligent people of faith. He wrote to me saying “if you think that what they’re saying is going to change my mind, let me tell you, it will do the very opposite.” He added “I obey the Pope, you should obey me, and they should obey you”

I tell you this – not to denigrate the Archbishop but to indicate to you the mindset of total obedience of the bishops of the church to absolute Roman Papal authority.

Such an undemocratic church cannot be a force for good in today’s world. Until the Church falls unto the hands of the people it cannot be a significant player in today’s world  – a world that demands and expects that the voice of the people be heard.

Peter Kennedy

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

When Fear Rules Integrity Dies A Painful Death

The following excerpt is from Richard McClory's latest post at NCR.  It deals with the issue of personal integrity in relationship to the current environment of institutional Catholicism.  I've written about this integrity issue more than once in the history of this blog, and I also believe very strongly it can never be stressed enough.
I've omitted the middle of the article where Richard goes into some of the statistics from the latest survey of Catholics which points to the integrity issue as the impetus for Catholics leaving the fold. 

The high cost of lost integrity

Richard McClory - National Catholic Reporter - 11/22/2011
In commenting on my article concerning the nonreception of church teaching ("When is dissent not just dissent?" Nov. 17), Jim McCrea made some valid points well worth considering: "How many of us know priests and lay people, active in parishes and dioceses, who compromise their core beliefs so as to carry on the good work they are doing within church structures? Whether the issue is Eucharistic inclusivity, option for the poor, a thinking laity, married clergy, women's ordination, homosexuality, contraception, our Church fosters a culture of keeping quiet so as to keep going. Sometimes the pressure from above is overt, but we are all subject to that subtlest form of institutional intimidation which everyone registers without it having to be articulated. (Jim McCrea is a frequent commenter at Bilgrimage and a long time member of this blog community. His insight is usually right on target.)

"We watch the few who persist in standing against it being marginalized or pushed out altogether; their whole lives can be taken apart. Many, both young and lifelong churchgoers, can no longer accept it and are walking away. Meanwhile those who slip into capitulating to it progressively deform their spiritual integrity.
"Of course, the Protestant tradition and secular society have long picked up the tenor of hypocrisy about Catholicism. After Vatican II, though, many of us felt we were on the way to being freed from it. But the volume now seems to be ratcheting up again. How can we commit to the Church we love without dancing to this particular tune?" (This institutional capitulation deforms spiritual integrity because first and foremost it feeds personal fear.)

I believe a great number of priests and other church employees share Jim's discomfort in this atmosphere of 21st century Catholicism. It is not a healthy environment conducive to robust, confident breathing. In order to do their service to the church, they must hold their tongue on a variety of matters they consider important for the future of the church. And when asked what they think in public, they dissemble or just lie. If it's not hypocrisy, it is, as Jim states, a diminishment of their integrity so vital to authentic ministry......

......I may be wrong but I submit a direct link exists between these survey findings showing the withdrawal of trust people place in church leadership and the inability of church leaders to be open, candid and transparent about their convictions. You may include here a great number of priests, religion teachers, laity working in Catholic hospitals, universities and other institutions, pastors, chancery officials and those bishops who understand what's going on. They remain outwardly discrete and noncommittal lest honest candor cost them their jobs. And everyone sees through this thin disguise. The result is often not sympathy for their plight but sad disillusionment among many Catholics and angry cynicism among others.


Fear rules in Catholicism.  It has for eons.  It's grip has gotten much tighter in the last twenty five years.  The more our hierarchy attempts to rule through fear, the tighter it makes this grip, the more integrity is loses, and the fewer the people who stay.  It's a very straight line relationship.  Beyond all that is this other simple fact:  The more fear rules, the less Jesus does.  Whether it's an institution or person, once integrity is lost, so is the the spiritual life.

We no longer talk in Catholicism about an inclusive Jesus.  We talk instead about excluding 'others'.  We no longer talk about the life giving attributes of living The Way.  We talk on endlessly about the 'culture of death', as if the Church itself isn't part and parcel of that culture of death, as if it has no responsibility, as if it is somehow above it all. That our leadership can act this way in the face of so much truth which says exactly the opposite, the less credibility they have, and the more the spiritual life of the Church dies.

Catholicism is dieing as an influence for change because our leadership is in its heart, terrified of change.  This is especially true if that change threatens their position in the Church.  Better for them that those of us that have real problems with their fear and utter lack of integrity leave the fold.  It's about as forceful a way as possible to tell us all that their Church is not about us.  It's about them.  If that's the case, then it's hopeless to look to Catholicism to be a major player in ushering in the Kingdom.  The Kingdom is all about flipping the status quo. It's all about living without fear.  It's about love and compassion which are incompatible with fear and lack of integrity.

It's not suprising to me that our youth are seeking spirituality and not religion.  Religion is proving to be a dry source of genuine spirituality.  It can be no other way as long as fear rules and integrity takes a back seat to coerced obedience in our major religions.  This doesn't mean I think Catholicism as a spiritual force has reached it's nadir.  It does mean we need to teach Catholicism as the powerful spiritual and life changing reality Jesus intended,  and not a set of religious dogma.  That teaching will not come from very many of our current leaders because on that path there is real personal challenge and very little guaranteed security. Jesus warned us all about those facts.  

He also showed us something else. He showed us in His passion and death that it was pointless to rely on most male leadership to witness to the Truth. The Apostles ran. They denied. They hid. They fell asleep at the switch. They missed the Resurrection. They demonstrated no integrity.  It was one man, John, and the women disciples who witnessed everything, walked the total path with Him, who maintained their integrity and witnessed the Resurrection.  As it was then, so it is now.  God willing it won't be this way in the future.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More News About Bishops And Porn

Here's one of Weltbild's offerings.  I imagine the German Bishops can take some solace in the fact it's not a gay porn offering. I don't know about the polyamory thing though

When this story first came to my attention I really had a hard time computing it.  Here in the US the Bishop Finn case was front page news and as we all know, porn features prominently in this case, and yet in Germany, Finn's fellow bishops owned a book company that was selling porn, lots of porn. Say what? I sometimes have a very difficult time computing the insanity inherent in our hierarchy.  It's no wonder Finn's attorneys are contemplating using a freedom of speech defense.  Now however, things have changed in Germany and partly due to Pope Benedict.  From the South African Sunday Times:

Catholic Church sells porn book seller

Sapa-dpa | 22 November, 2011 14:27

The Catholic church in Germany is to sell Weltbild, its bookselling arm, after the unit admitted last month to publishing pornographic novels, the company says.

Weltbild is one of the Germany's main book enterprises, with annual sales of 1.6 billion euros (2.1 billion dollars) and a workforce of 6,400. Its interests include general publishing, a main national bookshop chain and book clubs.

Catholic leaders were outraged that the profitable company's book range included steamy pulp novels with titles like "Boarding School for Sluts" and "The Lawyer's Whore" and advice on how to practice esoteric superstitions that are condemned by Catholic doctrine.

Germany's 27 bishops met this week to press the 12 bishops who co-own Weltbild to end the investment after Weltbild had defended its commercial policy of publishing whatever books meet market demand.
Weltbild, based in the southern city of Augsburg, said it welcomed the decision to seek new ownership "without delay."

Pope Benedict XIV, who urged German bishops in September to get rid of worldly wealth, appeared to influence the debate, telling Catholics they should be "energetically opposing the distribution of erotic and pornographic material."


The Weltbild story has been much bigger in Europe than it has in the States.  It turns out lay activists had been pressing the case for ditching Weltbild  over it's porn sales for quite some time.  They almost accomplished it in 2008 but the twelve bishops whose dioceses solely own Weltbild didn't get an offer for the company that met their demands.   I suspect price will be less of an issue this time around.

What's even more jaw dropping are these excuses for all that porn being missed by those German bishops.  This is from a Tablet article: 

"But as protests from conservative Catholic groups grew, and more dubious titles on www.weltbild.de were found and their names published, the German bishops admitted that a “filtering failure” had allowed dubious titles to stray into Weltbild’s lists. Weltbild’s management has meanwhile threatened to sue certain far-right online networks for slander for publishing headlines such as “Catholic Church earns a fortune with porn”.

The Catholic Church bought Weltbild more than 30 years ago. In 1998 it merged with five other publishing houses. In 2008, at the height of its success, the German bishops considered selling the concern. The Weltbild group’s chairman, Carel Halff, said then that the size of the company had “gone beyond the bishops’ original concept”. At that time Weltbild had 7,400 employees and a turnover of €1.94bn, while one of its subsidiaries,  www.buecher.de, listed 4,364 erotic titles. Criticism from conservative Catholics regarding these titles is said to have persuaded the bishops to try to sell. But their efforts came to nothing, apparently, because they were not offered the sum they were hoping for."

Why is it I think the operative number was 1.4 billion euros, and not the 4,364 erotic titles? Perhaps what ever those filters were filtering they must not have been programmed to flag titles that made money and that's why 4,364 dubious titles 'strayed' into Weltbild's list.  No wonder the 'do as I say not as I do' crowd are  winding up with a lot of egg on their faces. It was just too hard for those twelve bishops to yank their little red hands out of that particular cookie jar.

Monday, November 21, 2011

In Austria Bishops Call For More Dialogue

Cardinal Schonborn with three of the Medjugorje visionaries.  Perhaps he should consult with them about the efficacy of lay led communities.

As reported elsewhere last week, the Austrian Bishops have decided to opt for more dialogue with their dissident faithful.  They say they will maintain a dialogue over possible changes in church life.  I was unable to find anything about which changes they are willing to dialogue.  I have no doubt they will eventually get that list from Rome--and it won't be very long and it won't include lay led services.  The following is an excerpt of an article from NCR.

.....The bishops said Austria's dioceses were "taking opportunities to innovate" in response to "real and serious problems," and were confident they would "find answers to the questions asked today."
However, the bishops added that the summons to disobedience had "triggered alarm and sadness," and "left many Catholics shaking their heads." (I suspect those answers will mostly start with 'no'.

"Some demands allied with this call for disobedience are simply unsustainable -- the call for a Eucharist without the Blessed Sacrament openly breaches the central truth of our Catholic faith," the bishops' conference said in their Nov. 10 reply. (It depends on one's definition of that central truth.)

The bishops also urged dissident priests and lay Catholics to "show goodwill and a sense of compromise," and to avoid demands that "contradict the church's identity and put its unity seriously at risk."

Hans Peter Hurka, chairman of We Are Church, told ENInews that recent opinion surveys suggested 80 percent now backed its demands.

"All of this is seen as irrelevant by the bishops -- they don't seem to realize the train has already left and they're still standing on the platform," said Hurka. "The situation is now beyond church control and the dangers of a schism are very real." 


As far as things go in Austria, that last sentence from Peter Hurka is probably true. When 80% of Austrian Catholics agree with the reforms being requested by We Are Church, the Austrian Bishops are facing a crisis of epic proportions.  What's a bishop to do?  So far it's to call for continued dialogue and remain adamant about the central importance of the celibate priesthood.  Oh yes, and express alarm and sadness and shake their heads.  In the meantime they overwork their remaining priests and close parishes for lack of same.

As reported on the blog Iglesia Descalza, We Are Church held a symposium a few days before the Austrian bishops met in conference.  At this symposium they formalized and released a letter entitled:  "Concern for the Eucharist in the churches: seven theses."  Here's a short synopsis of some of the more salient points.

 1.  Jesus instituted the Eucharist as a small community event.  The community is tasked with determining it's leadership with the Bishop commissioning that leader for the sake of unity.
 2.  The current system of the number of priests determining the number of parishes is backwards.  It should be the number of active communities which determines the number of Eucharistic celebrants.
 3.  The current priest shortage is an artificial one, caused because Rome refuses to let go of an outdated theology of the priesthood and maintaining this priesthood is forcing the closure of parishes and burning out those priests who are still left.
 4.  The New Testament abolished the idea of Jewish and Pagan priests substituting this idea of formal priesthood with the idea of Jesus as the only priest and all believers sharing in that priesthood as a result of baptism.
 5.   Our current priesthood is a product of historical development in which married male priests and women were banned from ordination for cultural rather than spiritual reasons.
 6.  When bishops fail to provide sacramental leadership for communities, the communities themselves have the right to provide for their own leadership and provision of the Eucharist.

I've maintained since I started this blog that if changes in the priesthood were not forthcoming that eventually lay Catholics would come to the conclusion they would have to take matters into their own hands.  They would have to call forth their own leaders.  I happen to think this process will be more effective than petitioning the current Vatican for married or women priests and is a much more sweeping and effective reform than tweaking the current clerical system.  I also think the majority of Austrian bishops, amongst a whole bunch of other bishops, are well aware they are playing with their own demise if they keep insisting on maintenance of the current clerical system. Their call for more dialogue would seem to be a plea for more time--time enough for another Papal election.  The trouble with that is there are no guarantees the current crop of Cardinals would actually vote for a reforming Pope.  

If it's true that 80% of Austrian Catholics would support the reforms of We Are Church and actually call forth their own leaders in order to preserve their communities, this would represent the Catholic version of change percolating up from the bottom.  That does seem to be the preferred organizational method at the moment if the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movements are truly indicative of real change in the how the world will conduct it's business.  There's really not much the Austrian bishops could do to stop such a movement because it's very existence negates any potency for their claimed authority. If people choose not to listen to or obey the bishops, then the reality is the bishops have no authority.  That's a reality the Vatican itself should start taking far more seriously because what happens in the West will eventually happen through out the entire ChurchIt's a sure bet this current Pope is incapable of assimilating that reality.  

In the meantime Benedict's theological protege, Cardinal Schonborn, is left with the unenviable task of attempting to keep the Austrian Church from imploding. Perhaps Cardinal Schonborn would do well to concentrate on the theology of the young Joseph Ratzinger as opposed to Ratzinger's later work.  Or maybe he can just ring up one of the seers from Medjugorje and get their take on things.  After all, Medjugorje is a very interesting example of a lay led community with a lot of Spirit.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

John Allen On Pope Benedict's Lonely Liberation Theology.

Oh my.  Pope Benedict in the middle of girls dancing to drums.  What will the traditionalists think of this?

John Allen has a new post over at NCR on the Pope's just completed trip to Benin. In this article Allen attempts to explain that in his heart Benedict is truly a 'liberation theologian'.  Pope Benedict may be a liberation theologian in his heart, but he has ruled, as both head of the CDF and Pope, from his head, and that head had little heart for the major tenants of liberation theology.

The lonely liberation theology of Benedict XVI

John Allen - National Catholic Reporter - 11/20/2011
Anyone just tuning in now to Pope Benedict XVI, who doesn’t know much about him but somehow caught wind of his Nov. 18-20 trip to Benin, could be forgiven a bit of confusion about exactly what the pope came here to say about the political role of Catholicism in Africa.

Understanding that a unique form of ‘liberation theology’ circulates in the pope’s intellectual and spiritual bloodstream can, perhaps, help make sense of things.

(“Liberation theology” usually refers to a progressive theological movement pioneered in Latin America in the 1960s and 70s, which put the church on the side of the poor in their political struggles, and which drew both praise and rebuke from the future pope while he was the Vatican’s doctrinal czar.)

On the one hand, Benedict repeatedly cried out in defense of the poor. During an open-air Mass this morning in a soccer stadium in Benin’s capital, before some 40,000 wildly enthusiastic, dancing and singing locals (with another 40,000 outside) he said “Jesus wanted to identify himself with the poor” and the poor deserve respect because “through them, God shows us the way to Heaven.” (Jesus didn't quite phrase things this way.  He identified Himself directly with the poor.  In serving the poor and marginalized we serve Him. We see His face. That is vastly different from implying God uses the poor to show us the way to heaven. The poor are not utilitarian tools we use for the benefit of our own salvation.)

Yesterday, in a highly anticipated speech at Benin’s Presidential Palace, Benedict sounded at times like a populist reformer.
“There are too many scandals and injustices, too much corruption and greed, too many errors and lies, too much violence which leads to misery and death,” he said.

In his major document on the faith in Africa, Africae Munus, or “Africa’s Commitment,” Benedict called the church to act as a “sentinel,” denouncing situations of injustice.

The pontiff also took yet another swipe at neo-con ideologies. In his opening speech of the trip, he warned Africans that an “unconditional surrender to the laws of the market and of finance” is among the pathologies of modernity they would do well to avoid.

Yet Benedict XVI also issued a clear warning to stay out of politics, which could seem at odds with his biting social commentary. While he rejected “withdrawal” and “escape from concrete historical responsibility,” he explicitly instructed clergy to steer clear of “immediate engagement with politics.” (I assume Benedict is referencing individual clerics running for political office.  It's still OK to badger, bully, lobby and otherwise be a major political player--that is, for Roman Catholic Inc. and it's subsidiaries like the USCCB.)

The pope likewise stressed that “the church’s mission is not political in nature.” At another point, he added that, “Christ does not propose a revolution of a social or political kind.”

So, what’s going on? When Benedict talks about defense of the poor, is he engaging in pious rhetoric without any real-world bite? Is this just papal double-talk, tossing a bone to the church’s progressive constituency in one breath and its more traditional following in another?

In fact, the tension can be resolved with this insight: Benedict XVI has a distinctive form of liberation theology, and his various speeches and texts in Africa amount to vintage expressions of it.
This “Benedictine” form of liberation theology is rooted in three basic convictions.
  • The supernatural realm is the deepest and most “real” level of existence. Material forms of reality, including economic and political structures, are fundamentally conditioned by the quality of humanity’s relationship with God.
  • Individual transformation must precede social transformation. Systems and structures cannot be liberated if the individual human heart doesn’t change first.
  • Attempts by the church to dictate political solutions end in disaster, among other things performing a disservice to the poor by reducing the social appetite for God. Preoccupied with secularism as he is, Benedict XVI knows well that rejection of religious faith in the West is , at least in part, a reaction against centuries of theocracy and clerical privilege.
Add it up, and what you get is this: Benedict XVI is genuinely scandalized by poverty and injustice, and he wants the church to be a change agent. In terms of how the church promotes transformation, however, it’s not by lobbying or electoral strategy, but by inviting people into relationship with Christ – the Christ whose “preferential love for the poor” Benedict has repeatedly confirmed. (I'll believe this one when Benedict reigns in the USCCB like he and JPII did with AB Oscar Romero.)

Nurture love for Christ in the hearts of women and men, the pope believes, and the revolution will come. Trying to start with the revolution first, he believes, is a recipe for heartache, which the tragic history of the 20th century eloquently illustrates.

That’s the liberation theology of Benedict XVI. It is, in some ways, a fairly lonely position, satisfying neither the zeal for concrete political advocacy of the Catholic left nor the laissez-faire instincts of at least part of the Catholic right.

It’s also not clear how Benedict’s version of liberation theology will play in Africa itself, where religious leaders are accustomed to playing a robustly political role because the churches are often the only zones of life where civil society can take shape – the only safe environments in which dissent can be expressed, and where the power of the state doesn’t (at least, doesn’t always) reach.

Ironically, Benin itself is a good example of the point. This is a country where one former Archbishop of Cotonou, Isidore de Sousa, received special permission from the John Paul II to act as the effective leader of the country in the early 1990s, leading it through a transition from Marxism to democracy. (The implication in this sentence is that the Vatican of JPII/Benedict still considers itself a de facto ruler in global politics.)

In an interview yesterday with NCR, Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, called the tension between emphasizing a spiritual or a political mission as a “false dilemma.”

“It’s not as if you can’t be politically relevant if you don’t enter politics,” Onaiyekan said.

However Benedict’s liberation theology takes shape in Africa or other parts of the world, bringing it into focus at least has the virtue of rendering his various messages throughout this three-day journey consistent: Defend the poor, yes, but using the spiritual arsenal of the church.  (Which is what exactly?)


John Allen is very good at squeezing some lemonade out of lemons. Unfortunately even he cannot hide the fact that the current Vatican regime as articulated by Pope Benedict is really asking us to meekly accept their total control while calling it liberation.  The Vatican defines what it means by individual conversion, and has no problems exerting it's authority when Catholics don't convert in the exact Vatican way.  This Vatican will also talk endlessly about clergy staying out of politics until it finds a clergyman who is willing to rule a country in the way the Vatican wants a country ruled.  Then it's OK for a clergyman to be overtly political.  

Benedict's Vatican will talk about a preferential option for the poor, but his hierarchy is perfectly willing to leave that preferential option up to the vagaries of individual conversion and conscience.  This is one of the few places we Catholics are free to exercise individual conscience. Of course this kind of exercising does keep the Calvinistic wealthy Catholic fully in the fold and donating to a given Bishop's latest cathedral building project.  Sometimes the preferential option for the poor means building a massive church in which the poor can vicariously feel the riches in heaven which await them in exchange for their temporal suffering.  This kind of thing is precisely why Allen writes that Benedict insists the supernatural realm is the deepest and most 'real' level of existence.  Not to mention it's also the one for which we have no 'real' evidence and is there for ripe for authority to define for us--and keep external to us, when Jesus repeatedly said that realm was inside us.

That 'inside us' thing sure does seem to be the one concept Jesus taught that our leadership likes to ignore.  Of course if the kingdom is inside us, we don't have much use for the external kingdom that calls for Vatican elucidation or clerical mediation.  Can't be havin' that.  

In the end John Allen has it right, this 'lonely liberation theology' is mostly double speak no matter how much he spins and spins and spins it to be that which it isn't.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

OWS And Christian Leadership

84 year old Dorli Rainey, protesting in Seattle, was baptised in pepper spray.  Makes me proud to be an American

While the USCCB was in Baltimore discussing it's freedom to discriminate against gays and withhold medical treatment from pregnant women, another Bishop was writing about something more important.  The following is a pastoral letter from Bishop Mark Sisk of the New York Episcopal Diocese.  I am not unaware of the fact that protesters were arrested on the grounds of Trinity Wall Street during the crackdown Tuesday morning, but at least the Anglican and Episcopalians are wrestling with the moral issues of supporting OWS where as Roman Catholicism remains dead silent.

Bp Sisk Writes on OWS and Capitalism

We Must Not Serve Capitalism – We Must Make It Serve Us

The Rt. Rev. Mark S. Sisk
November 15, 2011
Bishop Sisk writes in response to the Occupy Wall Street protests. This article was originally planned for the next (December) Episcopal New Yorker, but in light of last night's developments in lower Manhattan, it has been decided to publish it now electronically. 

On Friday, October 21, I visited Zuccotti Park, the site—at least until last night—of the Occupy Wall Street protest. Whatever happens next in Lower Manhattan (and as I write, on the morning of November 15, things are moving fast, with the outcome unclear), there can be no doubt that this protest has struck a chord, and given birth to a movement that appears, in spite of everything, to be gaining momentum. For some, this chord seems to have sounded like a long awaited trumpet call to action; for others—who have not been shy to express their disdain—it is decidedly discordant.

Back in October, it was not always easy to distinguish those who were “tourists”—people who swung by to see what was going on out of simple curiosity—from those who were active participants in the protest itself. But what was clear was that this was not some tiny cell of extremists. Those present represented what was, to me, a surprisingly wide swath of the American people. Some, young and not so young, gave the appearance of being seasoned protesters.  Others, again both young and not so young, seemed to be first timers: folks who held their banners and slogans with a slight aura of awkwardness.

It is true that it was not easy at Zucotti Park to sort out the substance from the theatre. The media have offered little help, with their focus, unsurprisingly, on the most colorful and extreme expressions of protest. They have highlighted slogans that call for the jailing of bankers, while ignoring placards like the one I saw that said “99% + 1% = ONE”—which I interpreted as intending to highlight our common interests and essential unity as a people. Nor, sadly, have those in public leadership often commented helpfully—and they are certainly disingenuous when they point to the protestors' lack of a plan as evidence of a lack of seriousness, when apparently they have no plan themselves. Indeed, all too often the opposing voices that we hear are shrilly dismissive—their aggressive, trivializing tone hinting, to me, at a deep, largely unconscious, level of anxiety. It cannot be lost on many that all this is taking place with the background noise of the Arab Spring ringing in our ears.

Whatever happens next in Downtown Manhattan, it is terribly important that the core energy behind this protest not be lost behind a blizzard of slogans and rhetoric. The particular motivations of those protesting are, undoubtedly, as mixed as the American people itself. One dominant thread, however, is an (admittedly inchoate) critique of unfettered capitalism.

But the fundamental issue is not that the laws of capitalism are flawed; the fundamental issue is that we are flawed in our attitude to them.  

There can be little doubt that capitalism is a productive way to order economic life. But we need to remember, as the protestors have reminded us, that that is all that it is—an economic system based on the entirely reasonable propositions that capital has value, and that supply and demand are the most efficient way to set prices. Capitalism is of no help at all in determining what is morally good—that is something that must instead be determined by the community’s wider values.

And there should be no question that when an economic system fails to reflect those communal values, it should be modified and governed until it does. To say, as some do, that any attempt to control or guide our economic system is neither wise nor possible is to admit that an economic system has decisive control of our lives. For a Christian, such an admission would be nothing less than to yield to idolatry. (Though I do not claim deep knowledge of other religious traditions, I suspect that this is true for them as well.) God alone is the One, and the only One, to whom we can concede such ultimate authority. For the non-theist to make the argument that the laws of economics are immutable is to concede that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves. That is the same argument that those in the grip of various kinds of addiction make: “I am not in control, my addiction made me do it.”

As the OWS protestors

The way forward is not simple. In spite of what some in the public square would have us think, there are no obvious and easy solutions for complex problems. But what we must strive for is clear. We must—and I believe that this is what lies at the core of the OWS protests—rein in the imbalances that have caused our economic house to careen off course as though it is a self-perpetuating, self-governing good. The solution that we find will not be perfect, just as human beings are not perfect; but to surrender to forces as though we are helpless before them is not an answer, but an excuse.

We can do better. We are not helpless. We can, by working together, build a better, more just, society: a society founded on the American ideal of a nation in which there are “certain unalienable Rights,” including those to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We can look to the heart of who we are as a people and draw upon our better lights to seek the common good. That is our challenge as a nation. As followers of Jesus, we know that our calling now and always is to seek the welfare of the people, the children of God.


What ever one says about the messy back and forth between Anglican and Episcopalian support for OWS protesters, and it has been messy at St Paul's in London, at least our Anglican brothers and sisters are debating the pros and cons of Christian help, sanctuary, and support.   But for Roman Catholic bishops it's all about gays, abortion, birth control, and dubious claims of violations of religious freedom while making backroom deals with prosecutors and attorneys.  Somehow I doubt many protesters will be looking to the RC Church for sanctuary and that is a very sad statement.  

Shout out to AB Dolan:  Your campaign to convince us Jesus = Roman Catholicism will get no where if you insist on ignoring what real Jesus people are engaged in.  I am beginning to believe the true equation is Caesar=Roman Catholicism.  Be sure to give Newt  a pat on the back next time you hobnob with him over Jameson's and cuban cigars.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Long Term View Of The USCCB: Feeding The Fear

This is from a famous Cherokee parable.  The USCCB has made it's choice as to which wolf it will feed.

 Michael Sean Winters gives his take on yesterday's doings at the USCCB meeting.  Winters has always been a cheerleader for Archbishop Dolan so it's not surprising that his post is all aglow with praise for the Archbishop. The following excerpt is from the end of his article:

When Archbishop Dolan was appointed to New York, I noted that he had written his doctoral dissertation of the late Archbishop Edwin O’Hara, a pre-Vatican II bishop known as a reformer. O’Hara perceived the need to focus on the basics of the faith and was a prime mover in creating the Confraternity for Christian Doctrine and the Catholic Biblical Association. Dolan’s morning address and his comments at the CCHD reception were both, in their different ways, a call for the Church to focus on its core mission of evangelization and Christian witness. In his morning speech, Dolan quoted Henri deLubac, Dorothy Day and John Tracy Ellis, who are probably my three favorite 20th century Catholics, so I admit my bias. But, the point is this: Dolan understands that the Church’s struggle in the culture war issues of same sex marriage, contraception and immigration must all be tethered to the mast of fidelity to the Gospel. We evangelize and therefore we go out into the world to engage in the issues of the day, not the other way round. (Which Gospel is that?)

A wise man once gave me his take on Archbishop Dolan. He said he discerned three key features of Dolan’s personality. One side just got off the phone with a Catholic neo-con like Robbie George and is susceptible to those arguments. Another wise (side) believes evangelization is best undertaken at a backyard BBQ. And the third side is the student of John Tracy Ellis, someone who can take the long view of events and separate the core, animating concerns from the often unhelpful and even distorting rush of events which can actually obscure, rather than enlighten, those core concerns. We are beginning to see this third side of Dolan’s personality shine through and it augurs well for a profound tenure at the helm of the USCCB.


 If Dolan was actually animating the core concepts of Jesus teachings, he would put an end to the politics and call his USCCB brethren back to their CORE duty, which is the care of their flock.  He would be advocating with Rome for changes in priestly discipline so American parishes weren't forced to find a priest willing to serve their needs--such as this small rural parish in Iowa--who do not want to have their community sacrificed on the altar of the celibate priesthood.

If Dolan was really focused on the long view of events he would be more astute at reading polls regarding his flocks' major concerns and stop dumping millions of dollars in anti gay marriage campaigns and doomed to failure 'personhood' initiatives.  He might look at the plight of our younger generations who are correctly discerning they don't have much of an economic future and include their hopes and dreams in the same boat as immigrants migrating to the States for the same reasons. I suspect the reason he doesn't seem to see that particular connection is because our younger American generations are far from being the backbone of Dolan's view of a resurgent American Catholicism.  That hope lies with Hispanic immigration, which if Dolan was really capable of taking the long view, he would know is at best a one or two generation stop gap measure.  

All he need do is look at Catholic Brazil where in less than three generations the birth rate has gone from children by the soccer team to below replacement levels, which is lower than the US birthrate.  And this in spite of the fact the Brazilian Government offered no birth control program at the behest of Brazil's Roman Catholic bishops. If our bishops think twisting the US Constitution to give them the freedom to deny birth control to Catholic employees and college students is somehow going to work, they live in a male la la land. Or as one Brazilian woman put it, "Yes, we are women of faith, but in some matters the male clergy is perhaps not wholly equipped to discern the true will of God."  'Not wholly equipped', the irony is precious.

What is the long view that Archbishop Dolan and the USCCB are taking?  I suspect it's the one that focuses on the most fearful of Catholics and plays to their fears, because this is the group of Catholics which is least likely to question the clerical system.  This is the Catholic population which supports Bill Donohue, truly thinks gays are satan spawn, defends the indefensible behavior of clerics and bishops, thinks the Church is under attack by godless secularists, has a very magic mentality towards the Mass, and lives reacting to their fears rather than striving towards love.  In some respects we all have some of the above within in our psyches, but the majority of us are not willing to feed the fear over feeding the love.  The USCCB is betting they can survive by convincing people to feed their fears.  In one very important sense this is true.  The people who are most fearful are the ones who have the most to lose.  They will pay the most to have their fears soothed.  That would be the conservative wealthy.  I'm quite sure the USCCB under Dolan will be all about feeding that fear--because in a very profound way it's keeps their personal fears for their own survival at bay.

Monday, November 14, 2011

USCCB Meeting Opens In Baltimore And AB Dolan Opens The Festivities

Thanks to Rocco Palma at Whispers in the Loggia, here is the full text of Archbishop Dolan's opening address at the fall meeting of the USCCB.  Dolan's use of hyperbole is stunningly over wraught, which makes me wonder if that's why Rocco entitled his post, 'The King's Speech'.

* * *
"Love for Jesus and His Church must be the passion of our lives!”

My brother bishops: it is with that stunningly simple exhortation of Blessed Pope John II that I begin my remarks to you this morning.

“Love for Jesus and His Church must be the passion of our lives!”

You and I have as our sacred duty, arising from our intimate sacramental union with Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to love, cherish, care for, protect, unite in truth, love, and faith . . . to shepherd . . . His Church.

You and I believe with all our heart and soul that Christ and His Church are one.

That truth has been passed on to us from our predecessors, the apostles, especially St. Paul, who learned that equation on the Road to Damascus, who teaches so tenderly that the Church is the bride of Christ, that the Church is the body of Christ, that Christ and His Church are one.

That truth has been defended by bishops before us, sometimes and yet even today, at the cost of “dungeon, fire, and sword.”

That truth -- that He, Christ, and she, His Church, are one -- moistens our eyes and puts a lump in our throat as we whisper with De Lubac, “For what would I ever know of Him, without her?”

Each year we return to this premier see of John Carroll to gather as brothers in service to Him and to her. We do business, follow the agenda, vote on documents, renew priorities and hear information reports.

But, one thing we can’t help but remember, one lesson we knew before we got off the plane, train, or car, something we hardly needed to come to this venerable archdiocese to learn, is that “love for Jesus and His Church must be the passion of our lives!”

Perhaps, brethren, our most pressing pastoral challenge today is to reclaim that truth, to restore the luster, the credibility, the beauty of the Church “ever ancient, ever new,” renewing her as the face of Jesus, just as He is the face of God. Maybe our most urgent pastoral priority is to lead our people to see, meet, hear and embrace anew Jesus in and through His Church.

Because, as the chilling statistics we cannot ignore tell us, fewer and fewer of our beloved people -- to say nothing about those outside the household of the faith -- are convinced that Jesus and His Church are one. As Father Ronald Rolheiser wonders, we may be living in a post-ecclesial era, as people seem to prefer
a King but not the kingdom,
a shepherd with no flock,
to believe without belonging,
a spiritual family with God as my father, as long as I’m
the only child,
“spirituality” without religion
faith without the faithful
Christ without His Church.
So they drift from her, get mad at the Church, grow lax, join another, or just give it all up.

If this does not cause us pastors to shudder, I do not know what will.

The reasons are multiple and well-rehearsed, and we need to take them seriously.

We are quick to add that good news about the Church abounds as well, with evidence galore that the majority of God’s People hold fast to the revealed wisdom that Christ and His Church are one, with particularly refreshing news that young people, new converts, and new arrivals, are still magnetized by that truth, so clear to many of us only three months ago in Madrid, or six months ago at the Easter Vigil, or daily in the wonderfully deep and radiant faith of Catholic immigrants who are still a most welcome -- -- while sadly harassed -- -- gift to the Church and the land we love.

But a pressing challenge to us it remains . . . to renew the appeal of the Church, and the Catholic conviction that Christ and His Church are one.

Next year, which we eagerly anticipate as a Year of Faith, marks a half-century since the opening of the Second Vatican Council, which showed us how the Church summons the world foreward, not backward.

Our world would often have us believe that culture is light years ahead of a languishing, moribund Church.

But, of course, we realize the opposite is the case: the Church invites the world to a fresh, original place, not a musty or outdated one. It is always a risk for the world to hear the Church, for she dares the world to “cast out to the deep,” to foster and protect the inviolable dignity of the human person and human life; to acknowledge the truth about life ingrained in reason and nature; to protect marriage and family; to embrace those suffering and struggling; to prefer service to selfishness; and never to stifle the liberty to quench the deep down thirst for the divine that the poets, philosophers, and peasants of the earth know to be what really makes us genuinely human.

The Church loves God’s world like His only begotten Son did. She says yes to everything that is good, decent, honorable and ennobling about the world, and only says no when the world itself negates the dignity of the human person . . . and, as Father Robert Barron reminds us, “saying ‘no’ to a ‘no’ results in a ‘yes ’!”

To invite our own beloved people, and the world itself, to see Jesus and His Church as one
is, of course, the task of the New Evangelization. Pope Benedict will undoubtedly speak to us about this during our nearing ad limina visits, and we eagerly anticipate as well next autumn’s Synod on the New Evangelization. Jesus first called fishermen and then transformed them into shepherds. The New Evangelization prompts us to reclaim the role of fishermen. Perhaps we should begin to carry fishing poles instead of croziers. (Perhaps you should carry crosses instead of assigning that task to others.)

Two simple observations might be timely as we as successors of the apostles embrace this urgent task of inviting our people and our world to see Jesus and His Church as one.

First, we resist the temptation to approach the Church as merely a system of organizational energy and support that requires maintenance.

As the Holy Father remarked just recently in his homeland of Germany, “Many see only the outward form of the Church. This makes the Church appear as merely one of the many organizations within a democratic society, whose criteria and laws are then applied to . . . evaluating and dealing, with such a complex entity of the ‘Church’.”

The Church we passionately love is hardly some cumbersome, outmoded club of sticklers, with a medieval bureaucracy, silly human rules on fancy letterhead, one more movement rife with squabbles, opinions, and disagreement. (Well, actually it is.)

The Church is Jesus -- teaching, healing, saving, serving, inviting; Jesus often "bruised, derided, cursed, defiled."

The Church is a communio, a supernatural family. Most of us, praise God, are born into it, as we are into our human families. So, the Church is in our spiritual DNA. The Church is our home, our family.

In the Power and the Glory, when the young girl asks him why he just doesn’t renounce his Catholic faith, the un-named “Whisky Priest” replies:

“That’s impossible! There’s no way! It’s out of my power.”

Graham Greene narrates: “The child listened intently. She then said, ‘Oh, I see, like a birthmark’.”

To use a Catholic word, Bingo! Our Church is like a birthmark. Founded by Christ, the Church had her beginning at Pentecost, but her origin is from the Trinity. Yes, her beginning is in history, as was the incarnation, but her origin is outside of time.

Our urgent task to reclaim “love of Jesus and His Church as the passion of our lives” summons us not into ourselves but to Our Lord. Jesus prefers prophets, not programs; saints, not solutions; conversion of hearts, not calls to action; prayer, not protests: Verbum Dei rather than our verbage. (Mindless children, not adults.)

God calls us to be His children, saved by our oldest brother, Jesus, in a supernatural family called the Church.

Now, and here’s number two: since we are a spiritual family, we should hardly be surprised that the Church has troubles, problems . . . to use the talk-show vocabulary, that our supernatural family has some “dysfunction.”

As Dorothy Day remarked: "The Church is the radiant bride of Christ; but her members at times act more like the scarlet woman of Babylon."

It might seem, brother bishops, that the world wants us to forget every Church-teaching except for the one truth our culture is exuberantly eager to embrace and trumpet: the sinfulness of her members! That’s the one Catholic doctrine to which society bows its head and genuflects with crusading devotion! (It is rather hypocritical to critique culture while acting like the worst of culture.)

We profess it, too. With contrition and deep regret, we acknowledge that the members of the Church -- starting with us -- are sinners!

One big difference: we who believe in Jesus Christ and His one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church interpret the sinfulness of her members not as a reason to dismiss the Church or her eternal truths, but to embrace her all the more! The sinfulness of the members of the Church reminds us precisely how much we need the Church. The sinfulness of her members is never an excuse, but a plea, to place ourselves at His wounded side on Calvary from which flows the sacramental life of the Church. (Neat paragraph. Great piece of inversion.  It's our very sinfulness which makes us the source of Holiness.)

Like Him, she, too, has wounds. Instead of running from them, or hiding them, or denying them, she may be best showing them, like He did that first Easter night.

As Monsignor John Tracy Ellis used to introduce his courses on Church history, “Ladies and gentlemen, be prepared to discover that the Mystical Body of Christ has a lot of warts.”

And we passionately love our bride with wrinkles, warts, and wounds all the more.

We bishops repent as well. At least twice a day -- at Mass, and at compline -- we ask Divine mercy. Often do we approach the Sacrament of Penance.

One thing both sides of the Catholic ideological spectrum at last agree upon is the answer to this question: who’s to blame for people getting mad at or leaving the Church? Their unanimous answer?

. . . nice to meet you! We’re the cause, they never tire of telling us.

Less shrill voices might comfort us by assuring us that’s not true. Nice to hear . . .

But we are still sincere in often praying “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa” -- and we don't have to wait for the First Sunday of Advent to do it.

As Gregory the Great observed fifteen centuries ago: "the Church is fittingly pictured as dawn . . . dawn only hints that night is over. It does not reveal the full radiance of the day. While it indeed dispels the darkness and welcomes the light, it presents both of them . . . so does the Church."

Bishops, thanks for listening.

I look out at shepherds, fishermen, leaders, friends.

I look out at 300 brothers each of whom has a ring on his finger, because we’re spoken for, we’re married.

Our episcopal consecration has configured us so intimately to Jesus that He shares with us His bride, the Church. (You all share the same wife? I hate this bride/church analogy.  It just leads to strange thinking.)

There’s nothing we enjoy doing more than helping our people, and everybody else, get to know Him and her better. That's our job description.

Because . . . “Love for Jesus and His Church is the passion of our lives!”


It's pretty obvious the thrust of the New Evangelization is to program the connection in us all that Jesus and the Church are one.  Dolan states this nine times in his speech.  He can repeat it ad infinitum, but that repetition will never make it true.  Besides, Holy Mother Church can not stand 'in persona Christi'. No female entity has that ability, or so says our teaching authority. Actually that whole Bride of Christ, Holy Mother Church conceptualization lends itself to strange verbal relationships.  As in the above paragraph when AB Dolan states Jesus shares his Bride with all of the bishops.  Which does what, makes the Church their personal whore with Jesus's approval?  Maybe it's time for some better metaphors.

AB Dolan does get this one right: 
One thing both sides of the Catholic ideological spectrum at last agree upon is the answer to this question: who’s to blame for people getting mad at or leaving the Church? Their unanimous answer?  . . . nice to meet you! We’re the cause, they never tire of telling us.

It just seems to me that if both sides agree on that one thing, there might be a huge amount of truth in that agreement.  We never tire of telling bishops that because bishops never seem to really hear it.  Maybe that's because way too many of them have their ears cocked towards the men in Rome and not the people in their pews.  Maybe that's why Dolan is so insistent on the Jesus=Church equation, because as far as Rome goes, that part of the Church does seem to be God for our bishops.

If this speech is an example of what American Catholics can expect from Dolan's leadership, I guess we can forget being treated to adult fare.  The gist of this speech is pretty much junior high theology.  No wonder this group finds Sr Elizabeth Johnson's work intimidating and Dolan uses Bill Donohue as his preferred spokesperson.  The days of Cardinal Bernardin and thoughtful erudite teachings are dead and buried.  The exodus will continue.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Some Thoughts On Insanity

It looks like Bishop Lori of Bridgeport, the USCCB's front man on religious freedom is headed to Baltimore. Given his background even I admit he's a card carrying member in Benedict's view of  reality--which I also think happens to be mostly unconnected to reality.

I've been doing some thinking this morning about how utterly insane Catholicism can be.  I don't think it used to be this insane, but I could be wrong.  It could be the insanity went underground for awhile and now it's come out of the closet with a bang.  Or maybe it's just that I am 'seeing' the insanity in a way I couldn't let myself see before. I too was caught up in the insanity.  I suspect it's the latter.

I was thinking about Coach Joe Paterno.  About how everyone and their Nitanny Lion is calling for his resignation over the Sandusky affair.  And they probably should, but  then I think about the other 84 year old man across the Atlantic Ocean. The one who doesn't coach a football team.  The one who heads Roman Catholicism, and I think about the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of sexual predators he failed to investigate with any sense of alacrity, and I wonder why it is that some of the same voices who are so indignant about the one transgression of the football coach have given the other man pass after pass after pass. I think that's insane.

And then I thought about the Spanish nun in yesterday's post.  The one who owns a million+ dollars in property, lied to mothers about the deaths of their babies, got rich selling those babies to other parents, and says she is at peace because those mothers were in 'disgraceful' situations. I juxtapose that nun with Sr. Mary McBride whose actions actually saved a mother who was in a 'critical' situation, and for that act Sr McBride incurs excommunication. The other nun, well, she didn't.  She's now rich on hideously ill gotten gains and apparently justified in her actions.  I think that's insane.

And then I think about Bishop Lori, soon to take over in Baltimore,  who back stabbed his way up the clerical career ladder while an Auxiliary bishop in Washington.  I think about him  dictating to Congress that they should reinvent the US Constitution to give the USCCB carte blanc to foist Catholic moral teaching-- teachings which most Catholics don't even agree with--on the entire country.  I can't help but juxtapose him against Tom Gumbleton whose sin was to advocate for Ohio to open up a window in their statute of limitations so sexual abuse victims could press their cases and get some justice. Unfortunately for Tom, none of his fellow bishops were at all interested in that kind of legislation, the kind that opened them up for some accountability.  No they are only interested in the kinds of legislation that restrict the choices of others, and that includes abuse victims.  So Tom was quickly out, and Lori moves ever higher.  I think that's insane.

I happen to know something about insanity.  I work with legally defined insane people in my day to day occupation and I've seen and heard some truly insane things. The thing is, most of my people don't claim to be sane, or hold positions of authority over others, and it's the very rare one who claims to speak for God. I juxtapose that against our current group of bishops, who do claim to be ontologically superior especially to humans like me, a mere woman; who do hold great positions of power over others and want even more; who imperiously do claim to speak for God and I can't help but wonder who really is insane.  I think it's the bishops.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Old Time Family Values In Fascist Catholic Spain Are Ripping Families Apart

I've known about the following story for three or four years.  At least I knew there were accusations in Spain from a trickle of families and children that some Catholic hospitals and orphanages in Spain may have been engaging in child theft for a for profit adoption scam.  It was not a few isolated cases.  Now there is this story from the Toronto Sun. (thanks p2p)  It's been edited for length:

Searching for Spain’s stolen babies

 Mary Vallis - Toronto Sun - 11/08/2011
ZARAGOZA, SPAIN—In November 1974, Luisa Fernanda Marin Valenzuela stood in a doorway at a medical clinic. A male nurse held one arm and a nun held the other. About 36 hours earlier, she had given birth to a baby boy. Far across the room, she could see a tiny baby’s naked body on a table. They told her it was her dead son.

She wanted to get closer, to hold him, to cover his cold skin, perhaps even whisper his chosen name, Antonio. But the nun and nurse refused to let Luisa, who was wracked with grief, move closer to the child. Instead, they led her away.

“She’s going to faint, she’s going to faint,” she remembers them saying as they pulled her back. “Take her home.”

It was the first and only time Luisa saw the baby they said was her son. Thirty-seven years later, she is convinced it wasn’t him. She, like hundreds of other mothers across Spain, believes her child was stolen.

What began as a trickle of revelation about General Francisco Franco’s ideological cleansing by taking children from their parents is now a fully engaged scandal in a country wracked by debt, unemployment and civil unrest. As many as 300,000 babies, Spaniards have been told, were wrested from their mothers between 1960 and 1989 by a network of doctors, midwives, priests and nuns who then sold them to infertile couples for huge sums.

The scandal emerged four years ago, when a dying father revealed to his son, Juan Luis Moreno, that he and a childhood friend, Antonio Barroso, had, in fact, been bought from a priest and a nun for about 200,000 pesetas each in 1969, money that could have bought a small flat. Pesetas were the Spanish currency until 2002.

Nobody knows for sure how many children — and parents — are living false lives. Nearly 1,000 lawsuits have been filed in courts ill-prepared to handle them. And with the scandal has come a stream of shocking details — tiny corpses kept in freezers as decoys to show grieving parents; nuns with million-dollar real estate holdings and caskets exhumed after decades found empty.

Plunged into uncertainty, questioning mothers and children are paying hundreds of euros for their own DNA testing; the results are ripping their families apart

So far, six stolen children have been reunited with their biological families, providing many with hope that their long lost children are alive. It is only now that many have even considered the prospect that they may have been told something other than the truth, including Luisa.

She is 70 now, a mother of nine and grandmother of seven. Remembering those moments long ago, she wipes tears from her eyes again and again.

“You can overcome death. It takes a long time, it’s very painful, but you can overcome it,” she says. “But the uncertainty of not really knowing . . . that really is shattering.”

The stories of the many grieving mothers bear striking similarities. Many were anesthetized during labour. When they awoke, they were told their babies had died. Many never held their babies, or even saw them.
Stolen babies have a long history in Spain. During the reign of General Francisco Franco (1936-1975) tens of thousands of children were stolen, beginning in the 1930s. Children were taken from left-leaning parents and placed with more politically suitable families to protect their “moral education.” Others were taken from single mothers and given to “proper” Catholic homes.

“In Spain, the precedent was really set during the civil war,” said Antonio Lafarga Sábado, Luisa’s husband. “But the weird thing is, it just carried on. It didn’t stop.”

As Spain became a democracy, those with access to newborns appear to have carried on the tradition because the trade was so lucrative. (Some tradition, sighhh.).....

.......The scope is staggering. Barroso (Founder of National Association for Victims of Irregular Adoption) feels he is single-handedly leading the charge for justice. He is tired; dark circles hang beneath his eyes as he explains his frustration.

“It’s shameful that Spain, which likes to presume to be a law-abiding society, one that wants to give the impression of being a democratic, modern society, should have had this going on,” Barroso said. “You basically have to laugh so as not to break out crying.”

When Barroso learned he had been bought, his mother was ill. He surreptitiously swabbed her cheek for DNA tests that proved she was not his biological parent. She eventually confessed that a nun she had befriended did her a favour.

He and Moreno followed the trail to another nun, now 85, and in hospital. The men have visited her several times — hoping she will reveal the names of their real mothers. But she has revealed nothing.

“She remained absolutely unmoved,” Moreno says. “She said her conscience was at peace. She helped mothers in a disgraceful situation. She had nothing but peaceful thoughts.”

Barroso and Moreno have learned that she owns seven properties, estimating her worth at one million euros (nearly $1.4 million Canadian). One of the properties was inherited and another was donated, but the remaining five appear to be outright purchases.
“How is it possible that a nun with espoused vows of chastity, poverty and obedience should be worth so much money? How has she accrued so much property?” Moreno asks.

The nun has not been charged with any crime. The Roman Catholic Church has not commented........


There are some stories that leave one speechless, wondering how in the world could this sort of thing happenFour years ago this story involved Mr. Barrasso and his brother, and I kind of passed it off thinking they represented an isolated case from the Fascist Franco era.  I guessed wrong.  This 'adoption' thing looks like it was systemic and hugely profitable for the middle men and women and the organizations for which they worked--which meant a lot of Catholic hospitals and adoption agencies.

The rationale, other than the money, is most likely found in the words from the 85 year old nun:
“She remained absolutely unmoved,” Moreno says. “She said her conscience was at peace. She helped mothers in a disgraceful situation. She had nothing but peaceful thoughts.”

Except, all those mothers weren't in a 'disgraceful' situation, unless one considers any pregnancy 'disgraceful' when there are wealthy infertile parents with the 'correct' politics and morals readily available.  For one family, a bundle of joy who will live their lives built on a parental lie, and for another family, a deceptive and ruthless form of infanticide.  And this is pro life?  No, this is fundamentally twisted.  It's a systemic culture of death based on class and ideology.  

We live in fascinating times when all the dark and dirty secrets of our 'cherished' institutions, long held hidden, are now being exposed by the bright light of truth.  In the glare of this light, the options for denial and rationalization are limited.  So, no I am not surprised the Catholic Church in Spain has remained silent.  It would be pretty hard to wax eloquently on the absolute sanctity of life when your past actions clearly state life is more sanctified by wealth, or to demand Catholics defend the sanctity of marriage when those same past actions seem to say some marriages contain more sanctity than others.  

I fail to see how secularism could generate a form of moral relativism any worse than Fascist Catholicism has managed.  It seems the Spanish people themselves are thinking similar thoughts--just like in Ireland, where this same kind of bizarro thinking also held sway in the Magdalene Laundries.  The only difference is the Irish Church somehow failed to see the lucrative potential involved in 'disgraceful pregnancies'.  Or maybe they did and we just don't know about that aspect yet.

On a more hopeful note, check out this article from Jayden Cameron's blog, Gay Mystic.  Things are beginning to move in Austria.